With Amazon owning roughly half of the print book retail market, at least in the US and UK, it’s all too easy to assume that it offers good if not the best deals on printed books. Here I show how reliance on Amazon’s online store could result in you paying five times the regular cost for a book: £125 instead of £25.
I was looking for a copy of an old book about the geology of the Outer Hebrides, published by the British Geological Survey in 1992. I entered the search term ‘geology outer hebrides’ into Amazon’s advanced book search, and was disappointed to discover that it was not available new, either from Amazon itself or its Marketplace associates.
Trying that same search on the morning of 8 September, there are three Marketplace retailers offering that book, from a price of £152.60 inclusive of delivery. Thankfully when I was first looking for this book, I found a copy at around £25, and quickly snapped that up.
Note that Amazon itself does not list this title as being available or unavailable. Searching for it by ISBN, for example, simply returns the result that it is only available from third-party sellers. Searching for other publications by the same publisher reveals that Amazon stocks many of its books and maps, though.
While I waited for my £25 copy of this book to be delivered, I checked on the publisher’s own website, which of course has its own online shop. I was surprised to see that the book is still in print, and available from the British Geological Survey direct at a price of a mere £25.
If I didn’t have more scruples, I’d set myself up as an Amazon Marketplace retailer, buy in a copy of this book from its publisher at £25, and offer it on Amazon for a mere £100, to make £75 profit, less Amazon’s cut. Amazon Marketplace retailers do this with many books and other products. Although offering a product for sale is no guarantee of that sale, you don’t need many fools to fall for your rip-off pricing to make yourself a healthy – if ill-gotten – profit.
Some lessons, then:
- Don’t trust Amazon to tell you if a book is still in print, and available at list price from its publisher.
- Don’t trust the pricing of any Amazon Marketplace retailer. Many seem to be there to rip you off.
- If you’re looking for a specialist book from a smaller publisher, in particular, check the publisher’s online store first.
- Many retailers are obscenely greedy for profit.
- Caveat online emptor!